Amrita, in yoga parlance, is known as the divine nectar and confers immortality upon anyone who tastes it. As the Hindu legends goes, a long, long time ago all of the gods and demons joined forces to try to find the amrita. After much searching, they discovered that the amrita was buried deep under the ocean floor. Together they worked to manipulate the tides and churn everything up from the bottom of the ocean of milk. All kinds of things surfaced when they did this: Lakshmi was born (the goddess of beauty, wealth and abundance), Sura the goddess of wine, Chandra the moon and many other wonderful things. And at long last the amrita also appeared. But much like when Pandora opened that famous box, with the amrita surfaced the most deadly poison which then enveloped the universe. Horrified, the gods and demons begged Lord Shiva (the god of destruction) to save them – so he took all the poison into his mouth and swallowed it into his throat so it would no longer harm the world. However, the poison was so potent that it changed the colour of his neck to blue, thereby earning him the name of Neelakanta (blue-throated one).
By keeping the poison in his throat. Shiva was able to use his breath to remove the deadly toxicity and purify the amrita. The breath he used was the ujjayi pranayama, also called the warrior’s breath.
Each and every one of us has the power to purify through the breath ~ sometimes just a little breathing room is all we need to transform toxic emotions into inner peace. Next time that you feel dark emotions welling up in your throat, take a few minutes and practice ujjayi pranayama. Here’s how:
1. Find a comfortable seat, either on the floor or in a chair.
2. Lengthen the back of your neck by softening your chin slightly towards your heart.
3. Take a couple of deeper breaths – inhaling through the nose and big sighing exhales through your mouth
4. Close your mouth and begin to breathe in and out through your nose, trying to smooth and balance your inhalations and exhalations.
5. Imagine that you are trying to fog up a mirror with your exhale, so that you can feel your breath travel across the back of your throat. You will hear a haaaaaaa sound as you exhale. The inhale will also have a soft ocean sound.
6. Simply relax into the breath and allow the sound to take you inward
7. Continue for several minutes
8. Take your time to open your eyes and pause, noticing the effects of your practice